FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 9, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: PubDef-MediaRelations@sfgov.org | Valerie Ibarra (628)249-7946
From the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
District Attorneys Violated State Law That Protects Juvenile Records
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office violated state law protecting the confidentiality of juvenile cases in recent news reports. The reports are related to the Jan. 4 arrest of a 15-year-old, who is represented by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. The DA’s Office, which is prosecuting the minor for alleged homicide at the Japan Center Mall, issued a statement to press containing confidential information, and may have leaked documents related to the minor’s juvenile record.
California Welfare and Institutions Code 827 prohibits the release of information related to juvenile records, and it is a misdemeanor to violate these protections. This law reflects a long history of protecting juvenile proceedings and records from disclosure to facilitate the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile system and avoid stigmatizing individuals accused at a young age. See, e.g., T.N.G. v. Superior Court (1971) 4 Cal. 3d 767, 775-778; see also J.E. v. Superior Court (2014) 223 Cal. App.4th 1329, 1337 (“There is a strong public policy of confidentiality of juvenile records.”).
DA Brooke Jenkins has previously stated her inhumane policy to transfer certain juvenile cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds to adult court, but she is prohibited by state law from doing so when the individual accused is 15 years old. The Public Defender’s Office issued a statement when DA Jenkins announced her juvenile policy in September 2022, noting that the policy ignores the data and the history which has shown the ineffective, counterproductive, and dangerous practice of trying youth as adults under any circumstances.
The Public Defender’s Office will be exploring all avenues for holding the District Attorney’s Office accountable for violating state law, including a gag order to prohibit prosecutors from making further public comments on this juvenile case or releasing more documents related to the minor.